The social media network phenomenon has overtaken America and chances are good it has included your senior. Grandma is posting family photos, grandpa is looking up old war buddies and millions of our seniors are enjoying this new way to interact with everyone.
Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that social networking has almost doubled among seniors over 50 years — growing from 22 percent to 42 percent over the past year for a total of 27.4 million seniors logging on to networking sites.
As their skill and comfort using the internet increases, your seniors are talking with old friends, sharing photos, engaging with far away family members and even running businesses using social media. Email continues to lead the way in internet usage among seniors.
However, there are potential pitfalls when seniors get connected and we as caregivers need to be on the lookout for these possible sources of trouble and educate our seniors about staying safe.
- Be aware of scams which can strike through social networking channels.
- Maintain privacy settings on sites.
- Remind seniors not give out too much private information in their profiles that criminals can use to gain your trust or other identity data.
- Don’t open emails or attachments from people you don’t know; malware attachments are still making the rounds which can steal your identity, add spyware, upload Trojan software, or send spam from your account.
- Never wire anyone money from an instant message or inbox message on social media; likelihood is someone has stolen info and are using a trusted name to scam you.
- Never give out financial info such as bank account numbers or social security numbers.
- When redirected to another login page, check your browser for facebook.com or twitter.com and leave site immediately if this is not correct before phishing can occur.
- Click at your own risk; if it seems suspicious don’t click it.
- Be judicious in giving out your cell phone number; you may get entered into a text messaging service or an app that bills you a monthly fee without realizing it.
- Don’t fall for something too good to be true like “tweeting for cash-earn money for tweets”.
- Don’t pay for free trials or give your credit card number for access to a trial or you could be charged monthly fees on your credit card for something you never intended to purchase.
There are new sites intended for seniors in addition to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. These are geared toward our seniors for connections and education and include Eons, Growing Bolder and Eldr.com. While social media sites can offer our isolated seniors avenues for sharing and feeling part of something bigger, caution is the watch word and we need to help our seniors stay safe as they stay connected. Wherever we are enjoying ourselves on the web and our guard may be down, you can be sure someone with ill intent is there as well.